IPSO upholds Nicola Sturgeon complaint over 'misleading' Daily Telegraph story

The new press regulator has upheld a complaint from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about a Daily Telegraph article that said she would rather David Cameron than Ed Miliband won the general election.

Nicola Sturgeon: Claims were "categorically untrue"
Nicola Sturgeon: Claims were "categorically untrue"

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) judged that the article, which reported the apparent contents of a leaked government memo about a private meeting between Sturgeon and French ambassador Sylvie Bermann, was "significantly misleading".

The complaint said the claims in the memo, and repeated in the article published on 4 April, were "categorically untrue" and regarded the newspaper’s decision not to contact Sturgeon for comment as a breach of clause one of the Editors’ Code relating to accuracy.

IPSO said: "IPSO’s Complaints Committee judged that, while the newspaper was entitled to report on the memorandum, it had published its contents as facts without taking additional steps prior to publication – such as contacting the parties involved for their comment – to verify their accuracy. As a result, the article was significantly misleading."

The Daily Telegraph this morning published an adjudication on page two, with a front-page reference. It also published it online.

Matt Tee, chief executive of IPSO, said: "Clause one of the Editors’ Code obliges the press to take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. This article was significantly misleading because the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true. A front-page story such as this needs to be corrected in a prominent way and we have required The Daily Telegraph to publish our adjudication in full on page two with a reference on the front page of the newspaper, which it did today.

"IPSO’s policy when dealing with complaints that have generated significant public or group interest is to lay out a clear account of our process and findings. We will continue to do this to assist not just complainants, but also journalists and editors seeking guidance on the Editors’ Code."

In an article on the IPSO ruling this morning, the newspaper said it had "confirmed the authenticity of the document with two well-placed sources before publication".

"It was a contemporaneous note made by an experienced civil servant, and the newspaper had no reason to doubt its accuracy. It denied having any obligation to contact Ms Sturgeon for comment before publication: it was entitled to publish an accurate account of the document."

IPSO was founded in September 2014 following winding up of the Press Complaints Commission in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

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